In the past, our “radius of empathy” was very small, extending not too far outside of our direct relations or communities. If some calamity or suffering was too far away from us, we either did not find out about it or we just did not care about it. We were too detached.
As trade, industries, and technologies were developed, we connected more with each other and became a globalized civilization. With the spread of the internet, our “radius of empathy” grew — but in the wrong way. We came to value money and wealth more than the successes behind them. For many of us, celebrities and billionaire icons have become the definition of success — a rich, famous, care-free life. We dress like them, talk like them, listen to them, follow them around and on social media, all in order to become like them. And of course, our “radius of empathy” has been reduced to the lives and activities of these billionaires and celebrities.
This is not to say it’s bad to be a billionaire, or to be famous. After all, there are many billionaires who care about the world and have worked very hard to achieve their success. But that is exactly the point.
A celebrity should be celebrated, not just be famous or be a “star”. A billionaire should positively affect a billion people, not just have a billion notes of some currency.
Why not change who we give “celebrity” status? Why not change what it means to be a billionaire?
Instead of obsessing over the lives, clothes, and hairstyles of self-centered celebrities, we can obsess over how to build a colony on Mars.
Instead of sharing viral videos of music and movie stars, we can share the best solutions to climate change, drought, and famine. We can make science go viral instead.
Instead of celebrating a pop star’s shiny new car, we can celebrate scientists and pioneers that are developing self-driving cars that can save thousands of lives each year.
We have engineered our entire world to be able to connect with those far away, that lie beyond our line of sight. We are capable of empathizing with and understanding each other on a global scale, but we only pay attention to a select few. We can steer our civilization to new heights, but not with a like or a follow. It’s time we change the world with one positive action at a time.
We have the capacity, creativity, technology, and power to overcome the greatest challenges of humankind. When we focus on better things, we can make a real difference. When we focus on success over popularity, we can all be truly successful.
We can all be billionaires. We can all be celebrities, in this celebration called humankind.
“We have no more right to consume happiness without producing it than to consume wealth without producing it.”
~ George Bernard Shaw